Air Travel and Airline Passenger Rights FAQ

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Do airlines offer discounted tickets or let you change a ticket if you need to travel because of death or serious illness?

In certain exceptional cases, the airlines will allow nonrefundable tickets to be refunded if you need to cancel your plans because of the illness or death of your traveling companion or a close relative. Usually, you are urged at the time of purchase to take out travel insurance to cover this contingency. Sometimes charging a ticket on a credit card will give you some travel cancellation insurance.

An airline may offer a discounted fare (sometimes a minor discount, sometimes a generous discount) when a close relative becomes seriously ill or dies, causing you to travel without any advance planning. Who must be ill or have died for you to obtain a bereavement fare varies among airlines. For example, some airlines will give a discounted fare to attend the funeral of a parent, child, sibling, spouse, or in-laws only, while other airlines include non-marital partners and their immediate family members.

However, policies vary, as well as circumstances. If you are going to a memorial service scheduled for next week, even for your immediate relative, the airline will probably not offer you a bereavement discount.

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